While implementing the new theme for 404 Tech Support recently, I was running tests through Pingdom’s full page test. Upon looking over the results, I saw a few external requests taking up time for Disqus, the third-party comment system I use. This isn’t a criticism of Disqus because they provide a useful service. While testing out a different theme, Disqus would not show up at all but the native WordPress comments would appear when Disqus was disabled. With plans to work on the issue the next day, I left Disqus disabled overnight. I woke up to over 500 spam comments that took time to tediously remove.
The main point is that 404TS needs to streamline and recover its position in search engine results. Speeding up the site can help that effort. A lot of comments that I see are being used as a way to get a link back to another site with the comment content being confusing if understandable at all. I am appreciative of the legitimate comments that make it to 404 Tech Support but they only seem to come about one per dozen articles. The loading delay and other maintenance don’t seem to be worth it. I would love for the site to be a way for people to engage with meaningful conversation but that is not its main purpose. The site serves as a publishing platform so shouldn’t it provide an optimal experience for the majority of people that just want to read the articles and find solutions to their problems?
Since a few categories cover helping individuals solve their problems, I often get angry visitors when the solution doesn’t work for them. I have even been accused of creating Microsoft products and other software. Think about YouTube. Think about YouTube comments. Wouldn’t YouTube be better without the comments?
By the numbers
Beyond the theory, I have some numbers to back it up. I ran the homepage with and without Disqus enabled. The top is with Disqus enabled with 88 requests and 1.26 second load time. The bottom is with comments enabled but Disqus disabled at 86 requests and 975 millisecond load time.
Google AdSense was actually complaining about the speed of a popular article, which sent me down this path in the beginning. Disqus does not seem to allow customizing comment pagination, so it resulted in a lot of requests on this page with 100+ comments. WordPress native comments do allow pagination though it is not usually recommended. This speed test compares the native comments on the top and with comments disabled on the bottom. Native comments saw a decrease in load time versus Disqus but I don’t have that metric recorded. With comments, there were 121 requests and a load time of 1.16 seconds. With comments disabled, there were 104 requests and a 988ms load time though somehow a larger page size.
Since there are ads on the page, it leads to a lot of fluctuation with the results but I tested a number of times with each change to make sure the load times were faster on average and not just an outlier.
To disable the comments, I deactivated the Disqus plugin and installed a new one called Disable Comments. You can activate and configure Disable Comments under the Settings menu. It allows you to make the change everywhere or only on certain post types. You can also make the change persistent which will affect the database and permanently disable comments.
The plugin disables the comments feeds (one of the more annoying things in my opinion) and redirects to the parent feed. I used another plugin called RSS Links Managers which allowed me selectively disable the comments feed completely.
Hopefully the faster page load is better for everybody and I look forward to hearing feedback through our social media outlets.